The World War I dye famine, caused by the disruption of imports from Germany, made domestic manufacture an attractive investment for
many entrepreneurs with a chemical background.  One of these men was Dr. Robert W. Cornelison who received a Doctor of Science
degree from Harvard University in 1893.   During the next fifteen years he was a successful research and consulting chemist for industrial
companies.  In 1908-1909 he worked in the Bureau of Chemistry, United States Department of Agriculture.  

Dr. Cornelison later joined the
Calco Chemical Company, an emerging chemical intermediates and dye manufacturer, near Bound Brook,
New Jersey.  He was the first general manager at Calco and is said to have led the production of aniline, a major raw material for dyes, in
1915.   He left Calco to form his own company, Peerless Color, in 1916.  The plant was located next to a rail line at 521 North Avenue in
Plainfield, New Jersey.  Dr. Cornelison was issued US patent no. 1,433,985 on October 31, 1922 for a continuous chart recorder to monitor
the temperature and pressure of chemical reactions.

Some of the first dyes made by Peerless Color were primuline (and direct cotton dyes derived from it), Fast Yellow B, and union pink.  Small
dye companies could not afford their own sales force and field offices, so they usually contracted with experienced sales agencies. The
first sales agent was the Sterling Color Company which exhibited the Peerless Color product line at the Sixth National Textile Exposition
held in New York in 1918.  Their direct dyes were claimed equivalent to the best German dyes from Cassella.  Production was reported to be
regular and uniform in quality.

Dunker & Perkins of Boston then became the sales agent.  By 1922 the product range was expanded to Direct Fast Black HW, Direct
Brilliant Blue GB, Direct Fast Brown 5R, Direct Fast Brown RG, Peerless Erika 2GN, Direct Brilliant Rose B Extra, Direct Fast Violet 4B, Direct
Brilliant Flavine S, Direct Fast Yellow FF and FF120, Direct Fast Yellow BO, Mimosa Yellow PC, and Direct Fast Yellow AR.  

Direct Fast Yellow FF was an extremely fast direct yellow suitable for cotton, silk and other fibers.  It was used to shade sulfur and vat
colors and was unaffected by sodium sulfide or hydrosulfite.  Direct Fast Violet 4B was a bright dye used as a shader and for the production
of delicate lilacs and heliotropes.  It dyed cotton, rayon and wool, and left Celanese white.

The Direct Fast Brown G corresponded to the pre-war Congo Brown G from Germany.  It was suitable for union goods of cotton and wool,
and cotton and silk.  The Direct Brilliant Blue GR had the brilliancy of and fastness of the pre-war Dianil Blue R and Diamine Brilliant Blue G.  

The primulines are derivatives of dehydrothiotoluidine, which is formed by the fusion reaction of para-toluidine with sulfur at high
temperature.  If move sulfur is added and the temperature raised above 220 degrees C, a base is formed which yields primuline upon

In 1923 Peerless Color and
Noil Chemical & Color of New York united their sales departments under the direction of Arthur L. Benkert, who
had been sales manager and director for Peerless Color since 1916. The arrangement reduced selling costs for the companies which both
manufactured primarily direct colors.  The combined line of dyes rivaled those of larger companies.

The company was an early producer of vat dyes in the U.S., making its own intermediates such as benzanthrone.  The trade name
"Hydroform" was used for the vat dyes which were introduced in 1928.  Besides the black shades, the company produced Hydroform Deep
Blue RO.

Another principal in the firm was Arthur Clayton of Bound Brook.  Elizabeth F. Cornelison, wife of Dr. Cornelison, served as bookkeeper.  On
April 1, 1946 Dr. Cornelison died at his home in Somerville, New Jersey.  In May 1946 Arthur J. Buchanan joined the company as manager.  
Buchanan was a co-founder in 1933 of Southern Chemical Company of Charlotte, North Carolina along with John L. Crist and Leland G.
Atkins.  This company was later known as Southern Dyestuffs and then Sodyeco.

Paul J. Luck was named general manager in 1953; he was previously sales manager for Calco Chemical.  By this time Peerless Color was
highly regarded for its line of black, blue, navy, green, and yellow vats; Direct Brilliant Flavine S; and Chloramine Yellow.  The vat navy was
halogenated and the vat yellow and orange were sulfurized vat dyes.  The Thioflavine S was a very successful product, made by the
methylation of the sulfonic acid derivative of dehydrothiotoluidine.  This sulfonic acid on oxidation with bleaching powder or with lead
peroxide, in alkaline solution gave Chloramine Yellow which dyes cotton a beautiful yellow.  

The fusion reaction to prepare dehydrothiotoluidine was done in a rotating autoclave invented by
Dr. Cornelison and operated by a worker called “Indian”.  The production ended when the antique autoclave wore out.

A major expansion took place in 1956 with the completion of a new azo dye unit, engineered by Peerless research director Walter Chung.  A
former storage building, 28 feet high, was remodeled for this production.

The factory and business were acquired in the 1950s by Atlantic Chemical, a dye producer based in Nutley, New Jersey.  

Another dye maker that operated in Plainfield during World War I was the Crescent Color Company.  It was located on West Front Street.  In
1918 Crescent Color announced commencement of construction of a $20,000 addition to its plant.  The company may have been short-lived
since it was not covered again by the American Dyestuff Reporter


1) “American Dyestuff Manufacturers”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 1, No. 16, January 21, 1918, p. 17
2) "Sterling Color Co.", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 14, May 6, 1918, p. 6
3) "Dunker & Perkins Offer New Direct Colors, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 7, No. 25, December 20, 1920, p. 14
4)  “American-Made Colors”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 11, No. 11, November 20, 1922, pp. 373-377
5)  “Peerless and Noil Combine Sales Effort”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 12, No. 26, December 17, 1923, p. 928
6)  “Two New Peerless Colors”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 15, No. 2, February 8, 1926, p. 104
7)  “In Memoriam-Arthur L. Benkert”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 24, No. 18, September 9, 1935, p. 520
8)  "Dr. R. W. Cornelison", The New York Times, April 2, 1946
9)   “Joins Peerless Color”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 35, No. 10, May 20, 1946, p.266
10)   “Names in the News”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 42, No. 24, November 23, 1953, p. 801
11)   “Peerless Completes New Azo Unit”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 45, No. 7, March 26, 1956, p. 211
12) "PRIMULINE." LoveToKnow 1911 Online Encyclopedia. © 2003, 2004 LoveToKnow.
13) Crescent Color Company, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 13, April 29, 1918, p. 28

ColorantsHistory.Org thanks
Rubin Rabinowitz, founder of Atlantic Chemical and chairman of the American Dyestuff Corporation, for his
contributions to this history.

Jessica M. Myers, Head of Special Collections and Local History at the Plainfield Public Library, also supplied information about Peerless
Peerless Color Company
Plainfield, New Jersey
Arthur L. Benkert (1876-1935)
Director and Sales Manager of Peerless Color
Photo:  American Dyestuff Reporter, 1935
Paul J. Luck, General Manager of Peerless Color
Photo:  American Dyestuff Reporter, 1953
New Azo Dye Unit at Peerless Color.  Photos:  American Dyestuff Reporter, 1956.  Click to Enlarge
Peerless Color Dye Ad
American Dyestuff Reporter 1960
Click to Enlarge
Click Here for 3D Aerial Image of Former Site of Peerless Color Co.
Primuline (Direct Yellow 7)
American Dyestuff Reporter Sample Swatch Quarterly, April 1928
Trade Ad 1922
Image Courtesy of Peter Metzke
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